2023 Personal Ensign Stakes Contenders at Saratoga

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NYRA Press Release
Updated: August 24, 2023

Reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Nest Eyes Personal Ensign

The 4-year-old Curlin bay Nest will look to keep her perfect Saratoga Race Course record intact in the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign Stakes on Friday, August 25.

The Personal Ensign is slated as Race 9 on Friday's 10-race card which also features the $150,000 Smart N Fancy in Race 3. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Nest enters the nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares with a stellar Spa ledger, including Grade 1 wins in last year's Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama to go along with a last-out win off the bench on July 23 in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Shuvee.

2023 Personal Ensign Field & Odds

Race 9 at Saratoga on Friday, August 25 - Post 5:44 PM

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Idiomatic 3-1 Florent Geroux
120 Lbs
Brad Cox
2 Malloy 50-1 Dylan Davis
118 Lbs
Wayne Catalano
3 Secret Oath 8-1 Luis Saez
122 Lbs
D. Lukas
4 Sixtythreecaliber 15-1 Kendrick Carmouche
118 Lbs
Thomas Amoss
5 Nest 4-5 Irad Ortiz, Jr.
124 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
6 Clairiere 5-2 Joel Rosario
124 Lbs
Steven Asmussen

The reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly captured last year's Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland ahead of a runner-up effort to returning rival Secret Oath in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. She gained redemption with a stellar summer campaign that began with a runner-up effort against the boys in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

"She had a spectacular season as a 3-year-old and I think her Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama wins were two of the most impressive races we saw at Saratoga last year. It earned her a Championship and she's come back and is training even better at four," said Pletcher, who along with his wife, Tracy, were honored Wednesday with the Marylou Whitney award for service to the backstretch community.

Nest finished fourth as the mutuel favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff in November at Keeneland to close out her Championship campaign, but returned victorious off an eight-month layoff when besting multiple Grade 1-winner Clairiere - another returning foe - by 2 1/4-lengths in the Shuvee under a forward ride by the Spa's leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Pletcher admitted to being concerned at facing seasoned company off the layoff.

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"It was all the way from the Breeders' Cup Distaff and it was a delayed start. Running a mile and an eighth against a mare like Clairiere was asking a lot," Pletcher said. "But I was impressed by the way she did it and even more impressed by the way she came out of it and the way she's trained since then."

Pletcher noted the class and athleticism of the ultra-consistent Nest, who graduated at first asking traveling 1 1/16-miles in September 2021 at Belmont Park and two starts later captured the nine-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle at the Big A.

"She has that rare ability to quicken at the end of a dirt race - you don't see a lot of horses show that display of turn of foot at the top of the stretch like we see her do," Pletcher said. "She's just a very, very special filly. She was one that we felt like early on - she didn't debut until the fall - that like some of the Curlins, she didn't want to be a five-furlong type horse, so we took our time with her and debuted going long.

"She's shown that ability to get stronger the further she goes," added Pletcher. "She's very easy to train and she's very relaxed in her gallops. Everything comes very easy to her. If you want her to work slow, she'll do that. If you want her to work fast, she can do that. She's a trainer's dream really. She does whatever she asks you to do."

Pletcher has saddled three previous Personal Ensign-winners in Fleet Indian [2006], Love and Pride [2012] and Malathaat [2022] and is one victory shy of equaling a record shared by fellow Hall of Famers Shug McGaughey and Mack Miller.

Ortiz, Jr. retains the mount from post 5 aboard Nest, who is assigned a co-field high 124 pounds.

Stonestreet Stables' Kentucky homebred Clairiere [post 6, Joel Rosario, 124 pounds] will look to turn the tables after tracking from last-of-4 in the Shuvee and attempting an inside move on Nest at the top of the lane. She then angled outside her familiar foe and chased gamely to finish 2 1/4-lengths back of the winner with 10 lengths back to third-place Skratch Kat.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the classy Curlin bay has banked in excess of $3.1 million through a record of 20-8-6-3 led by Grade 1 scores in the 2021 Cotillion at Parx, the Apple Blossom Handicap in April at Oaklawn Park and back-to-back editions of the Ogden Phipps [2022-23] at Belmont.

Clairiere, who captured the Shuvee here last year ahead of a troubled fifth in the Personal Ensign, worked five-eighths in 1:01.21 on August 13 over the Oklahoma training track and followed with a half-mile breeze over the same track in 49.22 this morning.

"I'm very happy with how she's training," Asmussen said. "Obviously, Nest is a very tall order. We'll see how we do, but we couldn't be happier with Clairiere going in. She's a four-time Grade 1 winner of $3 million. She's covered plenty of ground."

Clairiere is out of the three-time Grade 1 winning Bernardini mare Cavorting, who banked more than $2 million through a record of 13-8-1-1.

Briland Farm's Secret Oath will look to get back to winning ways for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas when re-united with jockey Luis Saez from post 3 carrying 122 pounds.

The 4-year-old Arrogate chestnut enjoyed a tremendous sophomore season with Saez at the helm, capturing the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn en route to victory in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, besting Nest by two lengths.

She completed the exacta in both the CCA Oaks and Alabama and was third in the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx before capping her sophomore season with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff after making an early move.

Secret Oath made four tries this year under Tyler Gaffalione, beginning with a pair of starts at Oaklawn that featured a win in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Azeri when 2 3/4-lengths better than Clairiere, before that foe turned the tables on her next out by a neck in the Apple Blossom. Secret Oath narrowly missed when second by a neck to Played Hard in the Grade 1 La Troienne in May at Churchill and was last seen finishing a flat fifth in the Ogden Phipps.

Secret Oath has banked more than $2.3 million through a record of 17-6-4-3.

A new face at the top flight is Juddmonte's well-bred Idiomatic [post 1, Florent Geroux, 120 pounds], who has garnered back-to-back triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures from wins in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Shawnee [102] in June at Churchill and the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap [100] on July 8.

Trained by Brad Cox, the 4-year-old Curlin bay is out of the multiple graded stakes-placed First Defence mare Lockdown, who is a full-sister to 2014 Champion Older Mare Close Hatches.

"I like her a lot. Obviously, she's a Juddmonte homebred and you're not lacking on pedigree there," Cox said. "I think she's a big, strong Curlin that should like this surface up here. We train her across the street [on the Oklahoma] and I love what we've seen from her so far."

Idiomatic overcame a troubled trip as the odds-on favorite to win the 1 3/16-mile Delaware Handicap, while carrying a field-high 121 pounds under returning rider Florent Geroux and best graded stakes-winner Classy Edition by a head.

"A stumble away from there - it was not the trip we were expecting, but she was able to overcome some things throughout the race and stay on for the win," Cox said. "We're hopeful against this Grade 1 company we can get away well and get a little bit cleaner trip."

Idiomatic made five of her first six starts over the Turfway Park synthetic, graduating on debut last April and taking a 10-furlong optional claimer in February ahead of a first stakes score in the 1 1/16-mile Latonia in March.

She has worked four times over the Oklahoma training track, including a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.20 on August 11 and a five-furlong effort in 1:01.88 Saturday.

"She breezed last week, this week as well. She was meant to breeze Friday but we held it one day just because of the wet weather. Love what we saw from her," Cox said.

Rounding out a talented field is graded stakes-winner Sixtythreecaliber [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche, 118 pounds] for trainer Tom Amoss and owners MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm; and Coffeepot Stables' graded stakes-placed Malloy [post 2, Dylan Davis, 118 pounds] for trainer Wayne Catalano.

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Malloy steps up to the task in G1 Personal Ensign

Three-time winner Malloy will step up to the plate for trainer Wayne Catalano in Friday's Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Bob Cummings and Annette Bacola's Coffeepot Stables, Malloy enters from a 5 1/4-length win in an off-the-turf allowance optional claimer going one mile and 70 yards at Hawthorne Race Course. The 5-year-old Outwork bay ended a 12-race slump in proving two-turn capabilities, having not won since defeating winners going seven furlongs in June 2021 at Churchill Downs.

Malloy will face the daunting task of taking on last year's Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Nest, multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Clairiere and last year's Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath. Although a David amongst Goliaths in the nine-furlong Spa test, Catalano said his mare has given him all the indications that she's sitting on a big race.

"She's grown up, filled out and doing much better. I really like the way she's progressing and I'm looking forward to running her. I think she'll run a nice race for us," Catalano said.

Catalano said a Personal Ensign triumph would be a sweet one for the owners, who spend lots of time in Saratoga Springs.

"We know that we're in a real tough race, but the Cummings like Saratoga and they want to give her a try in the race." Catalano admitted. "In a race like this, you never know if you're going to be third or what. We're just going to let her run her race and let the race unfold."

Malloy is out of the dual stakes-winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Hello Maggie May, who also produced dual Louisiana-bred stakes winner Late September. She was bought at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale for $175,000.

She will break from post 2 under Dylan Davis at 50-1 morning line odds.

On the Travers undercard, Catalano will unleash first time starting juvenile filly Willowy - a third generation Coffepot Stables homebred by More Than Ready.

The dark bay filly has breezed consistently at Saratoga since arriving in late July and last breezed on Sunday morning, going five furlongs in 1:02.41.

Willowy is one of several juveniles for Coffepot Stables under the care of Catalano.

"Right now, she's come the furthest along. She's shown a little more and showing some talent and I think maybe she'll run well up there, so I brought her on up," Catalano said.

Willowy is out of the two-time winning Fusaichi Pegasus mare She's On Parade, whose second dam was 1987 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Sacahuista.

Tabbed at 15-1 morning line odds, Willowy will break from post 7 under Davis.

Pre-Draw News

Nest works for G1 Personal Ensign

August 19 - Earlier this morning, trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House's reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Nest for her final breeze in preparation for the nine-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign on August 25.

The daughter of Curlin covered a half-mile in 48.75 seconds in company with multiple graded stakes-winner Wit, who targets the $150,000 Bernard Baruch on September 4 at Saratoga.

"I thought it was as good as a horse could work," said Pletcher. "We expect it, but it's always good to see. She's been a star since Day One."

Nest enters the Personal Ensign off a triumphant return from a nearly nine-month layoff to win the Grade 2 Shuvee on July 23 over multiple Grade 1-winner Clairiere.

Last year, Nest was awarded her Champion honors for a campaign that included memorable Grade 1 wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama at the Spa and the Ashland at Keeneland, as well as a strong runner-up effort to stablemate Mo Donegal in the Belmont Stakes. She concluded her campaign with an even fourth-place effort behind stablemate Malathaat as the post-time favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff in November at Keeneland.

A $350,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Nest boasts a record of 12-8-2-1 and total purse earnings of $2,083,050.

Additional Personal Ensign contenders breezing five furlongs over the Oklahoma dirt training track at the Spa this morning were the Brad Cox-trained Idiomatic [1:01.88] and Secret Oath [1:00.85] for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

2023 Personal Ensign Probables

Probable: Clairiere (Steve Asmussen), Idiomatic (Brad Cox), Nest (Todd Pletcher), Secret Oath (D. Wayne Lukas)

Possible: Malloy (Wayne Catalano), Sixtythreecaliber (Tom Amoss), Society (Asmussen)